Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kunming - Part 3 - Stone Forest

The Yunnan province is a geologically special place in the world. Besides having amazing places like the Tiger Leaping Gorge, you can also find a unique limestone formation known as Karst. About two hours drive from Kunming is home to a significant outcropping of Karst. Here, known as the Stone Forest, you can find all four different formations of limestone Karst including: sword,

Like most national parks in China (this one protected by UNESCO) you can find English-speaking guides. Our's name was George and for the few hours we poked around the park, I was lucky enough to hear all about the geological, historical and mythical aspects of the Stone Forest. I found it interesting the local village was in the process of being relocated. George said this was due to the tourist's complaints of the 'terrible smells'. He also explained that over 15,000 km of Yunnan's topography contains Karst formations and was considered in ancient times to be one the natural wonders of the world. Today, although beautiful, the park has become an over-crowded tourist destination. So, if you don't mind wading through people and waiting in lines to take pictures in front of the famous formations, you'll have a great time! George explained that the park's popularity is one of the reasons that Yunnan keeps the air so clean. The revenue created by the millions of visitors each year is one of the reasons this province keeps factories away.

As we wandered through the winding maze of limestone we admired the names given to the famous formations. There was the Sword, Kissing-Birds, Elephant, Tom and Jerry, and Pair of Shoes formations. Surpisingly, they represented the names pretty well (except the sword rock which was broken in the last earthquake. There were certain places where the stone surface was perculiarily shiny. George explained that these were places that were rumored to give certain luck when touched. For example, if you able to jump and touch a certain rock, you would grow taller. Another place, if your neck was able to fit through, you would become rich. I hope that one come true.

At one of the resting points, we were able to watch part of a show put on by locals. Check out the video as they perform a song and dance in the traditional style.

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